Three-peat for RI's squash girls
Ice-cool Annabelle clinches winning point as RI retain A Div Girls' squash title
The equation was simple - win her match and her school would be crowned champions for the third year in a row.
And Raffles Institution's (RI) Annabelle Lim duly delivered, as she clinched the winning point in their showdown with National Junior College's (NJC) at the National A Division Girls' Squash Championships at the Kallang Squash and Tennis Centre yesterday.
Annabelle had headed into her match - the fourth of the best-of-five final - with the score 2-1 in her team's favour.
With the pressure on her young shoulders, the 17-year-old showed nerves of steel to beat NJC's Li Ying Xi 11-5, 11-4. 11-4 to secure a 3-1 victory.
It was a repeat of last year's final when RI beat NJC 5-0 to clinch gold.
Annabelle's victory rendered the final match a mere formality, but she downplayed her performance and preferred to focus on the team's performance.
"All of us worked really hard for the win today. We tried our best and we are really pleased with our performance," Annabelle told The New Paper.
What made RI's feat even more impressive was the fact that this year's team were a new-look one from last year's title-winning team.
RI coach Allan Chang, who has been at the helm since 2004, praised his charges for their composed display despite their inexperience.
"I am very happy with today's result. All my girls put in their heart and soul for this victory. They were very determined to win as well," said the 57-year-old.
"We were composed and confident and I felt that nerves affected our opponents and that was something that worked to our advantage."
Elena Khoo gave RI a huge boost when she defeated Cherie Ko 11-8, 11-8. 11-6 in the first match.
NJC drew level after Low Hui Ling came out tops against Melissa Lee 11-1, 11-8, 11-8.
Despite the gallant fight put up by the NJC players, the superior fitness and technique of the RI players proved to be the difference in the next three matches.
Regina Ho regained the lead for RI when she prevailed 11-8, 13-11, 11-5 against NJC's Rika Ogawa.
Annabelle then clinched the winning point before Nicole Mak wrapped up proceedings for RI with a 12-10, 11-6, 11-4, 11-4 win over Gabrielle Lim.
NJC coach Waseem Gul, the son of former Singapore Open champion, Rahim Gul and brother of current squash national coach, Ibrahim Gul, was upbeat despite the loss.
He insisted that he was pleased with his team's performance and the best is yet to come.
"This is just NJC's second appearance in the final," said Waseem.
"Before the last two years, we have never reached the last four let alone the final, so I am really happy with their work over the last two years.
"Credit to our opponents who played well today, but we will continue working and I will do my best until I help NJC win the gold. That is my aim."